Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mirable Dictu! Florida Activists Help Depose Terrible Foreclosure Judge | Palm Beach Judge Diana Lewis Loses Judicial Seat to Challenger Raising Issues with Demeanor

by Haydee Oropesa

Jessica Ticktin, a 35 year old Florida attorney, decided to run against an incumbent judge, Diana Lewis.  During the race Ticktin raised issues related to Lewis’ judicial demeanor.  Lewis received a low rating on a recent judicial survey conducted by the local bar. Lewis criticized the “validity” of the results pointing to the “low” number of participants.  Lewis sought to avoid being challenged by Ticktin who was financially well funded.  Lewis who was up for re-election in Group 14 this year contemplated running in Group 32 after the judge serving in that seat decided not to run for re-election.  Running in Group 32 would have meant not having any opposition for Lewis.  However, according to Post on Politics, Ticktin declared that she would run in whichever race Lewis switched to in order to continue challenging her.  Sun Sentinel reported that Lewis switched races several times to avoid the challenge “only to be followed by Ticktin.”   Sun Sentinel had reported that Jessica Ticktin did not just want to be a judge but also wanted to knock Lewis off the bench.  Ticktin managed to succeed in that regard, she won the election yesterday.   The Daily Business Review’s coverage on the election results headlined, “In Judicial Elections, Not a Good Night to Be an Incumbent.”   Judge Jessica Ticktin told the DBR after the election victory,
“We came into it having no idea how we were going to do, and it seems like we’ve done quite well. I’m honored by the trust that has been placed with me and I look forward to making sure that justice is served here with respect and civility.”

Judge Jessica Ticktin
Judge Jessica Ticktin  Congratulations Judge Ticktin!  Reminder: Voters elect and fund the salaries of  public servants and deserve nothing less than being treated with respect and civility.  Good thing we have Americans like Judge Ticktin who will not let us forget.
Support us! Please Donate or Subscribe!  by David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen

It’s rare that we get to celebrate a victory here, especially in the mortgage and foreclosure arena, but we saw one this week. Down in Florida, where the anti-foreclosure activist movement really took root, one of the worst judges in the state lost her job, and many of the same players had a role in the defeat.

It’s hard to achieve a reputation as the worst foreclosure judge in Florida, the home of the “rocket docket” and other abuses of due process, but Palm Beach County Judge Diana Lewis had a claim on it. The best way to get a sense of her judicial style is to read this transcript excerpt:
Mr. Stopa: Judge, you acknowledged yourself, on multiple occasions, on the record, that, you know — Initially, you had multiple times where you said you were ruling for the defendant, and then you said if you didn’t, it would be reversed. I’m not arguing with you, but my point is that I think there are legitimate grounds to go to the Appellate Court, and before my client is divested of the property and a third party purchaser tries to buy it and, potentially, take possession, ultimately to potentially be removed, then a stay should be entered so that we can pursue our right on an appeal…
The Court: You’re welcome to do that.
Mr. Stopa: Can I submit you an Order that grants a stay?
The Court: No. Your stay is denied.
Mr. Stopa: On the issue of stay, can I ask for an explanation, or what have you, because, you know –
The Court: My job is to move cases.
Mr. Stopa: I’m sorry?
The Court: My job is to move cases and that’s what I’m doing.
Lewis basically embodied the concept that homeowners with arrears are automatically deadbeats, and that the actual procedures of law establishing property rights, existing for over 300 years in America, meant absolutely nothing. There’s not even the semblance of impartiality here; foreclosure cases simply move to final judgment by default. Not to mention that she was boorish, rude, and dismissive of people simply trying to have their day in court. Here are a series of testimonials – the words “vile,” “despicable” and “disgrace” frequently crop up.

Lewis comes from a political family; her father was a state senator with a focus, paradoxically, on homelessness. There’s a homeless facility in the area with her father’s name on it, and the running joke among the legal community is that his daughter kept it well stocked. Lewis won a judicial election in 2002 and was up again for re-election this year. Jessica Ticktin, a 35 year-old foreclosure attorney with experience in Lewis’ courtroom, decided to challenge her.
Ticktin insists there was no single incident or case that made her decide to go after the jurist who took the bench the same year Ticktin graduated from law school.
“It’s not just me or my law firm,” she said. “It is a problem many, many attorneys in Palm Beach County and out of county attorneys have experienced with this judge. They and their clients were treated unfairly and inappropriately. Her demeanor is a big problem.” [...]
The flap is mainly over her use of the results of biannual surveys the county Bar Association takes, asking its members to evaluate local judges. In the most recent survey, 147 of the 216 attorneys who responded said Lewis’ judicial demeanor needs improvement. Almost half — 99 — gave her similar marks for impartiality and 74 said she should do more to enforce standards of professionalism. The results were similar in surveys conducted in 2011 and 2009 [...]
She said she suspects most of the complaints come from lawyers, like many of those in Ticktin’s office, who appear before her on foreclosure cases. Many are ill-trained, never having had the advantage of being mentored by older lawyers, she said.
This is a typical take from Lewis. The lawyers she harassed and demeaned in her courtroom every day simply had to be unqualified. But when so many lawyers have the same complaint, it’s obviously indicative of the problem.

The legal community across the state backed Ticktin, as did several editorial boards. “At some point in her current six-year term, incumbent Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Diana Lewis’ reputation for rudeness stopped being a forgivable quirk and became an embarrassment for the judiciary,” said the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Activists, lawyers and ordinary Floridians donated money and time to Ticktin’s campaign (here’s an example). I’m told that friends of the blog Lisa Epstein and Michael Redman stayed on their feet in the hot sun on Tuesday for several hours, encouraging voters to choose Ticktin over Lewis.

It paid off. Last Tuesday Ticktin defeated Lewis 54-46. My spies tell me that Judge Lewis was more peevish than usual on the bench the next day. No matter; she won’t be there much longer.

One judicial election certainly does not make up for the outrage and human tragedy that has defined this foreclosure crisis era. But it feels good to see some measure of justice prevail, at least by subtracting one of the worst of the worst in bank-loving judges. It does show that the spirit of the movement that gave its best shot at forcing accountability on the most powerful forces in America remains alive. They may have gone local, they may be focused on small and unheralded issues, but they can still pack some force. Just ask ex-Judge Diana Lewis.
Diana Lewis

1 comment:

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